Flying With an Upset Stomach

I’m not quite sure how this happened. In November it was a sinus infection. In December it was bronchitis. And in January, I managed to get food poisoning. So now I am traveling, yet again, feeling under the weather. The thing is, this is a trip for fun, not work, so I want to feel my best. Unfortunately, my best isn’t all that great these days. Oy. Upset stomachs can be caused by all kinds of things, but regardless of the reason, it’s a terrible way to fly. If you have to get on a plane, though, there are ways to make it more bearable. Here are my tips for traveling when your stomach doesn’t feel great:

  • Stay hydrated. It’s important to stay hydrated whenever you travel, but even more so when you’re not feeling well.  When I went to the doctor for this food poisoning, he said one of the problems was that I was dehydrated. Once I forced myself to drink more liquids, I felt much better. During flights, drink at least 8 oz of water or juice for each hour of flight.
  • Stay away from caffeine. Caffeine will dehydrated you, which is compounded in the air, so it’s best to avoid during flight times. Of course, if a Coke is the best way to settle your stomach, well, that’s probably okay. Just maybe stay away from the shots of espresso.
  • Don’t fly on an empty stomach. Even though food is probably the last thing you want right now, flying without eating will just make it worse. Eat a little something, preferably bland, prior to getting on the plane.
  • Take snacks. Snacking periodically throughout your flight can keep your stomach calm (or as calm as it gets). On my flight today, I will have peanut butter crackers, pretzels, and saltines. I plan on getting a Gatorade once I get to the airport to take on my flight, and drinking juice and water during.
  • Bring medicine. There are all kinds of medicines for upset stomach on the market—you probably know what works best for you. I like Pepto Bismol, but that’s just me.
  • Get an aisle seat. If you have to run to the lav, it’s a lot easier to get up and go then to ask your seatmates to get out of your way.
  • Keep a bag handy. Just in case the worst happens, keep an airsickness bag handy.

Readers, what are your tips for traveling when feeling under the weather?

*Remember, Road Warriorette is not a doctor. Please consult your doctor before trying to treat any illnesses.


  1. A few years ago, I had an important business meeting and had to travel with a headcold. Because I was already congested, when the plane descended the pressure in my ears was so intense I nearly passed out from the pain (I’m not exaggerating). I couldn’t hear for four or five days.

    I mentioned it to my doctor and he told me that I was lucky that I didn’t perforate my ear drum. He also told me that next time I had a cold, to buy some psudofed tablets and one hour before the flight, swallow one tablet. And if the flight last more than three hours, take one tablet at least 30 minutes or an hour before landing.

    He said that it would prevent any discomfort or damage to my ear drum .

    He also told me that I could do it even if I didn’t have a head cold and that it would keep my ears from stopping up or popping.

    It works. And I follow his advice every time I get on a plane.

  2. Here’s a tip if there’s sickness when you are already on the road.

    My son woke up the morning of our flight home from our winter holiday vacation & after breakfast came running into the bathroom where I was drying my hair saying he thought he was going to throw up. He’s only 5 and not prone to false alarms, so I had a moment of serious panic, envisioning 8 hours of travel home (2 flights & layover) with a child vomiting the entire way.

    Luckily, it turned out to be a case of “ate breakfast too fast” rather than something more dire, but I was really proud of my travel ingenuity.

    Knowing that it would be difficult for a 5 year old to use the airsickness bag (and not knowing if we would experience anything bad while returning the rental car, riding the shuttle bus, etc.), I looked around the hotel room for something to use & found 2 candidates.

    #1 is the drycleaning/laundry bag they often have in the closet. I never use this for hotel drycleaning/laundry except in an emergency (too expensive) but it makes an excellent barf bag. I’ve used it in the past for a damp swimsuit or unexpectedly dirty shoes.

    #2 was in the bathroom trash can. Not the can itself (um, because it belongs to the hotel) or even the regular bag (already full of kid-related trash), but the clean bags that housekeeping has stashed in the can under the bag that’s already in use (does that make sense?) It’s a common hotel housekeeping strategy & we even do this at home, which is why I thought to look there.

    I stuffed the 2 extra bags I found in the bathroom trash can into my purse, gave my son the laundry bag to hold in the car, and we were off to the airport, feeling at least marginally prepared if the worst would happen!

    I’m sure the hotel staff would have been happy to assist us & provide trash bags, but we were trying to get out the door for an early flight & my husband & older son were already waiting in the car, so we were in a rush (hence the too-quickly-eaten breakfast).

  3. It really depends on what I’m sick *with*

    For colds I like dayquil tablets (nyquil if it’s an overnight flight!), and I make sure I take an extra pack of those pocket tissue packs. Also I drink as much water as possible

    For sinus infections I drink as much hot beverages as possible – usually I prefer herbal tea.

    Though I remember one time I was sick with the flu and had to travel (I was about 9 I think). Saltines and ginger ale kept me going pretty well until we landed – this was one of the worst flights of my life.

    I think the biggest thing is finding stuff to keep my mind off the fact that I’m sick, so I usually treat myself to something I normally wouldn’t (like a book on my ‘to buy’ list, watching a movie on my computer, or (when I’m feeling really bad) an extra half hour in bed.

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